Patriot Out Front with Ethanol

nec14-patriot-darryllPatriot Renewable Fuels wants to be the “poster child” for other ethanol plants when it comes to marketing higher blends in their own communities.

You might remember Darrell Rakestraw as the veteran we interviewed last fall about the EPA proposal to lower the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). When we spoke to him last week at his first National Ethanol Conference, Rakestraw was three months into his job as market development manager for Patriot. “I’ve learned a lot in three months,” he said. “The one thing I got out of (the conference) is that we have to help ourselves, we have to put the funds in to do the educational piece because no one else is going to do it.”

Listen to my interview with Darrell here: Interview with Darrell Rakestraw, Patriot Renewable Fuels

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

State Level Blend Walls Update

nec14-randy-jenningsThe phrase “all politics is local” seems like it sure could apply to some of the decisions to overcome the ethanol blend wall. Challenges to increasing ethanol in the marketplace exist on the state level as well as the federal level, and participants at the National Ethanol Conference learned more about efforts to break down the blend wall in various states, including Tennessee, where Randy Jennings is Director of Program Operations for the state Department of Agriculture Division of Consumer & Industry Services.

“Definitely, the walls are falling,” is how Jennings described the results so far of their efforts, along with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), to increase the amount of ethanol to be blended into gasoline in his state.

He said they brought together various Tennessee state agencies, such as the state’s Department of Environment and Conservation (the regulator of fuel storage tanks), Commerce and Insurance, and Department of Labor and Workforce Development, as well as stakeholding industries in Tennessee. They are proposing some key changes in current rules to also be proposed at this summer’s National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM). Those changes include: an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) waiver for up to 15 percent ethanol, redefining E85 and how it is marketed, and proposing yellow grip guards at the pump just for flex-fuels, among other proposed changes. Jennings hopes that there will be more fuel choices for consumers, while working with the industry.

“We remain committed to working with all stakeholders in a fair, consistent manner.”

Hear more of his remarks here: Comments from Randy Jennings, Tennessee Department of Agriculture

nec14-kristy-mooreMeanwhile, RFA Vice President for Technical Services Kristy Moore outlined some of the challenges they face on the state level, including EPA’s restrictions during the summer volatility season.

“[For example in the Kansas City, Kansas area], gasoline in the summer must [meet EPA's capped requirements]. Gasoline in that area blended with 9-10 percent ethanol is allowed an 8 PSI requirement. But gasoline with 15 percent ethanol, has to meet the more restrictive [requirement],” she explained. And then in the rest of the state of Kansas, there are other requirements for E10 and E15 and above blends.

Moore said they have needed to work state-by-state, making sure they were not crossing laws already on the books and trying to get legislatures to make changes so there could be an increase in blends and more uniform blending rules across the country. She believes they’ve helped eliminate impediments in many states.

“We’ve really have had some major success, major education, and a lot of good partnerships in these state regulators to understand what E15 fuels can do, what blender pumps can do, what E85 can do for their marketplace and their fuel markets.”

Listen to more of here remarks here: Comments from Kristy Moore, RFA

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

NEC Breaking Down Blend Wall Panel

nec14-blend-wallTying in to the first part of the theme “Falling Walls, Rising Tides”, the second panel at the 2014 National Ethanol Conference was focused on Breaking Down the Blend Wall.

The panel, moderated by Renewable Fuels Association Director of Market Development Robert White, featured infrastructure experts who discussed efforts underway to expand options for retailers and overall availability of ethanol blends above E10.

Panelists were:
Bruce Sprague, Product Manager, Gilbarco Veeder-Root
Patrick Jeitler, Dispenser Product Manager – North America, Wayne, A GE Energy Business
Steve Walk, VP of Business Development, Protec

Listen to the entire discussion here: NEC Blend Wall Panel

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

Minnesota Gets First Biodiesel Blender Pumps

StaplesEnterprise1Minnesota gets its first biodiesel blender pumps with some help from the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC). Staples Enterprises in Heron Lake has the pumps offering up to 20 percent biodiesel blends.

“The store and the blender pumps have actually been in operation since January and we’re promoting biodiesel now during our fall celebration,” said Daric Zimmerman, Retail Marketing Director for Staples Enterprises. “With these pumps, we now carry up to five blends of biodiesel here at our Heron Lake store.”

Biodiesel, made primarily from the oil of Minnesota-grown soybeans, has been successfully added to every gallon of diesel sold in the state. Biodiesel is the only domestically produced, commercially available fuel that meets the criteria of an advanced biofuel. Biodiesel can be used in existing engines and fuel injection equipment in blends up to 20 percent with no modifications.

According to Zimmerman, it was important for Staples Enterprises to continue their support of the local markets in which they operate. “We felt that the installation of these blender pumps helped further show our commitment to the area and the local producers.”

Officials point out that the pumps gives customers more choices in their fuel options.

Iowa Looks to Expand Ethanol, Biodiesel Blends

branstad1Officials in Iowa are looking to up the choices consumers will have when filling up with ethanol and biodiesel. Gov. Terry Branstad announced a new public-private partnership called “Fueling Our Future” that will use state dollars to leverage investments in existing renewable fuel infrastructure to establish more blender pumps containing E-30 and biodiesel at gas retailers around the state.

“This pilot program will provide Iowans with additional access to higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel, which will help our farmers, communities and economy in producing, processing and profiting locally,” said Branstad.

The Fueling Our Future program will be supported by the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Department of Transportation, Iowa State University and the Iowa Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Board.

The announcement was welcomed by the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association:

ia-rfa“Iowa leads the nation in renewable fuels production, and has led in developing markets for E10, E15, E85 and biodiesel over the last 30 years,” stated IRFA Executive Director Monte Shaw. “But never one to sit still, Governor Branstad is already looking down the road to the next five to ten years. I want to thank Gov. Branstad and his team for the new ‘Fueling Our Future’ program that will continue to build on the successes this state has had in renewable fuels, and will position Iowa to lead the way in E30 and biodiesel availability.”

More information on the state’s Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program can be found here.

DF Cast: Ethanol Battles for Info & Against the Gov’t

Understanding what the auto industry wants and needs… and how ethanol can meet that… all while battling Big Oil and even the government… that’s the daunting task the ethanol industry has been facing for some time.

ACE13-uniteandignite-vandergriendIn this edition of the Domestic Fuel Cast, we talk with Dave Vander Griend, the co-founder and president of one of the world’s largest ethanol plant engineering and construction firms, ICM. He talks about how first the ethanol industry needed to identify what the auto industry needed and then what the refineries were producing, a first on both counts for the ethanol industry. He says once his industry was able to see what the car makers wanted, it was easier to figure out how to counter some of the arguments Big Oil has been making against ethanol.

Meanwhile, the Urban Air Initiative, a group that looks to reduce the threat to public health posed by petroleum-based fuels, issued a white paper, dispelling Big Oil’s myths and countering what the group characterizes as an erroneous report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would hurt ethanol.

It’s a fascinating conversation, and you can hear more of it in this Domestic Fuel Cast: Domestic Fuel Cast - Dave Vander Griend, ICM and Urban Air Initiative

You can also subscribe to the DomesticFuel Cast here.

Surmountable “Blend Wall”

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 11.27.47 AMFuels America recently hosted a briefing on the Hill (Washington, D.C.) to give an update on the so-called “blend wall.” Energy experts and biofuel industry representatives discussed the need to provide consumer choice at the pump. Other topics discussed during the event included: benefits of renewable fuel; penetration  of new fuels like E15  and cellulosic ethanol into the marketplace; compliance flexibility; and Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs).

Panelists for the event included:

  • Tom Buis, CEO, Growth Energy
  • Dr. Andy Randolph, Engine Technical Director, Richard Childress Racing
  • Brent Erickson, Executive Vice President, Industrial and Environmental Section Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)
  • Bruce Vollan, Midway Service, Inc.
  • Bob Casper, President, POET Ethanol Products

Tom Buis kicked off the briefing and noted the timing of the event happened to coincide with a spike in oil prices – now higher than $100 per barrel for domestic oil. He said that the oil companies are touting all the oil – new oil finds, oil from shale (i.e. fracking) oil drilled from oceans, and arguing that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)  is not needed. “Well I think this morning’s headlines is just another good example of yes we do. Yes, we need a competitive, alternative to fossil-based fuel.”

You can listen to the Hill briefing, “Surmountable Blend Wall” here: Surmountable Blend Wall

New British Columbia Biodiesel Blender Pump Opens

CowichanlogoA cooperative in British Columbia, Canada opens a new biodiesel blender pump. This story from the Cowichan Valley (BC) Citizen says the area’s first blender pump opened to an enthusiastic crowd at the Bings Creek Solid Waste Facility:

“It’s taken a little while to get here but we’ve done it and now I’d like to welcome you to Phase 1 of what we call a bio-diesel blending station. I think it’s the first of its kind in North America as a cooperative between local government and a non-profit, with significant help from Van City Credit Union,” [Brian Roberts, president of the Cowichan Biodiesel Co-op] said.

The idea is to allow the regional district to fuel up its vehicles with biodiesel right at Bings Creek.

“CVRD vehicles will be able to use a blend of biodiesel, anywhere from five per cent up to 50 per cent and 100 per cent biodiesel. This allows the CVRD to maximize the amount of biodiesel they can use in any one vehicle to whatever the warranty limitations may be, and if there are no limitations, we can go to 100 per cent biodiesel to make that vehicle carbon neutral,” Roberts said.

The cooperative uses local waste cooking oil as its feedstock.

KiOR Announces Cellulosic Milestone

KiOR has announced that its commercial scale cellulosic gasoline and diesel production facility in Columbus, Mississippi has achieved several key operational milestones. The first achievement was that the facility’s Biomass Fluid Catalytic Cracking, or BFCC, unit has completed its first uninterrupted 30-day run. In addition, the facility made its first shipment of cellulosic gasoline on June 28, which represented the first fuel shipment since March, 2013. On the same day, the facility commenced regular shipments of both gasoline and diesel.

kior_logo_CMYK“Commencing regular shipments of gasoline and diesel is very significant for KiOR, as it reflects the continuous improvements in our operations at the Columbus facility,” said Fred Cannon, KiOR’s president and CEO. “We have been undertaking considerable reliability and optimization efforts in areas of the facility unrelated to KiOR’s core technology. The success of these efforts gives us confidence, more than ever, that the performance targets for the Columbus plant are attainable in the months ahead and that our operating assumptions for our next, larger Natchez plant are reasonable.”

Cannon continued, “With the facility operating stably and producing cellulosic gasoline and diesel at commercial scale, we believe we are on track to achieve steady-state operations before the end of the calendar year and to demonstrate improving performance metrics over that timeframe. The largest commercially producing cellulosic production facility in the world, we expect Columbus — enhanced with our recent optimizations — to be the basis of our second facility’s design at Natchez,”he concluded.

Urban Air Initiative Worried About Stocks, Not Ethanol

irfa-13-krissekEthanol is good for taking harmful particles out of automobile emissions, but a group committed to cleaner air is worried that gasoline makers might just end up putting more particulates in the blendstock.

“The [ultra-fine particulates] profile of the ethanol is very, very consistent,” but Greg Krissek, Director of Government Affairs for ICM, part of the Urban Air Initiative, told Joanna during the recent Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) Renewable Fuels Summit that as ethanol blends get higher, gasoline makers are increasing the amount of particulate-forming ingredients on their end.

But Greg is still optimistic that higher ethanol blends will be used in the future. “I think there are very positive discussions with automakers about how to use mid-level blends. What we don’t want to happen is the unintended consequence down the road of what happens to that gasoline blendstock.”

You can find out more on the Urban Air Initiative’s website.

Listen to Joanna’s interview with Greg here: Greg Krissek

View the IRFA Renewable Fuels Summit Photo Album.

B20 Powering Navy Building

The first Navy plant in the Mid-Atlantic region to use B20 is located in St. Julien’s Creek Annex in Portsmouth, Virginia. The biodiesel blend will provide steam to heat 16 office buildings and 13 warehouses. Over the course of the winter, 235,000 gallons of B20 are expected to be used to create the heat.

Previously the plant used traditional, petroleum-based fuel oil. According to the National Biodiesel Board, the B20 blend is priced competitively with the petroleum based diesel, and will not increase the Navy’s costs to heat the base, while helping to meet the Secretary of the Navy’s goals for greater energy security.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Energy) Tom Hicks recently experienced a first-hand look at how biodiesel is being used to heat a Navy base. “The Navy uses an annual average of 30 million barrels of fuel per year which equates to about $4 to $5 billion of fuel cost,” Hicks said during the tour. Because of this, it is important to explore additional and alternative sources like we see here today at St. Julien’s Creek.”

Hicks continued, “This is a perfect example of what the Navy is trying to do by using B20, a 20 percent biodiesel, 80 percent conventional fuel to run the steam plant from domestic sources that are competitively priced.”

Propel & Solazyme Deliver Algae-Based Fuel

Propel Fuels is believed to be the first in the nation to sell consumers algae-based fuel at the pump compliments of Solazyme Inc. The two companies have joined together to offer Solazyme’s algae-based Soladiesel®BD in the Bay Area. The month long pilot program provides the biofuels industry the first opportunity to test consumer response to the advanced biofuel.

According to a statement from Propel, Solazyme’s high quality algae-based SoladieselBD meets or exceeds ASTM quality specifications and has shown performance enhancements including cold temperature operating performance. The fuel is compatible with existing diesel engines and Propel is guaranteeing the fuel’s performance. The algae-based fuel will be sold at the same price as conventional diesel fuels and will be available exclusively at Propel’s Clean Fuel Points in Redwood City, San Jose (N. First St.), Berkeley, and Oakland.

“Propel is committed to providing our customers with access to the highest quality, most sustainable, domestically produced fuels, so we’re proud to introduce the next generation of fuels to the retail market,” said Matt Horton, CEO of Propel Fuels. “Propel’s growing station network provides the critical link between these future fuels and today’s consumer fuel tanks, giving our customers a chance to make history.”

Solazyme’s technology platform converts plant sugars into oils in a few days. Testing undertaken by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that, in a 20 percent blend, SoladieselBD significantly outperforms ultra-low sulfur diesel in total hydrocarbons (THC), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter tailpipe emissions. This includes an approximate 30 percent reduction in particulates, a 20 percent reduction in CO and an approximate 10 percent reduction in THC.

“Solazyme’s revolutionary algae-based technology platform has supplied our development partners and customers with advanced biofuels that meet or exceed some of the world’s most stringent fuels specifications and requirements, “ added Bob Ames, VP of Fuels, Solazyme.  “We’ve successfully demonstrated our land-based fuels in fleet vehicles and corporate busses, and are excited about this pilot program with Propel because it enables us to make these fuels available to the public.”

Iowa RFA Asks Car Makers to Endorse E15

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) is asking all auto makers to recommend the use of 15% ethanol blended fuel (E15) for use in new model vehicles.

IRFA has sent letters to the heads of 12 auto manufacturers asking them to follow the trend set by Ford Motor Company and General Motors and endorse the use of E15 as approved by the Environmental Protection Agency as an option for owners of cars and light duty trucks newer than 2001.

The letters stated, “It’s now been just over two years since the U.S. EPA authorized the use of E15 in new cars and light duty trucks sold in the U.S. Recent announcements by General Motors and Ford Motor Company that E15 is recommended for use in their new vehicles clearly demonstrates that ample time has passed for automakers to react to the EPA’s announcement and offer vehicles for sale in the U.S. that give consumers the fueling choice they deserve.”

The letters continued by asking if E15 is a recommended fuel for the company’s model year 2013 cars and light duty trucks sold in the U.S. If E15 is not a recommended for use in the company’s model year 2013 cars and light duty trucks, the IRFA also asked, “Given the two years to research and prepare for the transition to E15, please explain why your company chose not to align its products with all of the legal fuel options sold in the U.S.?”

The letters were sent to the heads of BMW of North America, Chrysler Group, American Honda Motor Company, Hyundai Motors America, Kia Motors America, Mazda Motors of America, Mercedes-Benz USA, Nissan North America, Saab Cars North America, Toyota North America, Volkswagen Group of America, and Volvo Group North America.

Economist Bruce Johnson To Address NEB Meeting

Professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska/Lincoln, Dr. Bruce Johnson, will be addressing the attendees of the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) meeting tomorrow, October 30, 2012 at 10:00 am CDT at the University of Nebraska East Campus Union in Lincoln. He will be discussing the recently released “2010 Economic Impact of the Nebraska Agricultural Production Complex.” The report focuses on the state’s industries involved in growing, processing and transporting agricultural products, which account for nearly one quarter of Nebraska’s total economy. In addition, Dr. Johnson will address the role of the state’s ethanol industry and prospects for future agricultural growth.

According to statements from NEB, the production and use of ethanol strengthens the state’s economy while lowering fuel costs. Ethanol blended fuels are projected to save Nebraska consumers more than $70 million during 2012. Francisco Blanch, a commodities expert for Merrill Lynch, said that biofuels, like ethanol, lower gas prices by at least 15 percent on a nationwide basis.

“Those energy savings are retained in the domestic economy,” said Steve Hanson, Nebraska Ethanol Board chairman. “The high price of oil and gas is driving up the cost of nearly all consumer products but the ethanol industry is helping to keep the Nebraska economy strong amidst nationwide inflation.”

Phil Lampert, former director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, will also speak at the Nebraska Ethanol Board meeting. Lampert is nationally recognized for his work to expand the use of E85 and other higher percentage ethanol blends. Lampert will provide an overview of ethanol flex fuel infrastructure development.

State Corn Groups Work For Consumer Choice

State corn associations across the country are working to bring more choice for consumers at the pump through the use of higher blends of ethanol, such as E15. Several programs are in place to help retailers install the infrastructure needed for consumers to take advantage of EPA’s decision to allow E15 to be used in vehicles 2001 and newer. In addition, the groups are working to install flex fuel pumps that dispense mid-level blends of ethanol such as E20 and E30 as well as E85, blends that can only be used in flex-fuel vehicles.

Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota all have efforts to increase the use of higher ethanol blends in their respective states by helping fund the installation of the necessary fuel pumps. From programs that completely support the installation of E85 pumps for retailers looking to convert multiple locations to programs that help cover the cost of signage highlighting ethanol options.

Today there are around 162,000 retail stations nationwide; yet, only 3,000 offer E85 and significantly less offer E15. But for most retailers who were early adopters of ethanol blends, they find a financial advantage to selling the higher ethanol blends in increased sales.

In addition to the various state programs, there are also two additional campaigns, the American Ethanol partnership with NASCAR® and the Blend Your Own program, to help increase infrastructure, awareness and adoption of higher ethanol blends. Retailers looking for more information on aid for the installation of infrastructure for higher blends of ethanol, visit the Blend Your Own Ethanol website.